Surrender isn’t an option in 24. We’ve seen this in season after season. “The U.S. doesn’t negotiate with terrorists!” is one of those lines spoken so frequently that we understand this as a truth of the show, if not actual life. In every seemingly hopeless situation, there’s always an option and Jack Bauer is frequently the one to find it. Now that Margot Al-Harazi has already started the drone attacks in London, it’s not so much about saving the U.S. as it is about saving a dear friend. President Heller is ready to surrender.
The President is confident in his decision. He will give in to Margot Al-Harazi’s demands. He will sacrifice himself to save the lives of thousands. As much as the President of the United States is ready to give his life to stop the drone attacks, the move is also a test of Margot’s true motives. In return, she must destroy the remaining drones. He reminds Margot that she opposes the loss of innocent lives. “Prove it,” he dares her. “Shed mine.”
In “6:00pm – 7:00pm” we get the best glimpse of this season’s president so far. In an earlier episode, he showed remorse for the lives lost in U.S. drone attacks. He essentially says this to Margot when he offers her the chance to kill him. President Heller is not an innocent person. Whether or not he was aware of the damage caused by the drones, he has blood on his hands. If he doesn’t surrender now, he will add to those stains. The President is also in the twilight of his life: his Alzheimer’s diagnosis will become common knowledge soon, and he’ll have to resign regardless of the situation while his memories fade. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the show’s second season, where CTU’s George Mason took over the nuclear bomb suicide mission from Jack Bauer. The difference was that Mason only had hours to live when he opted for self-sacrifice. Heller’s demise isn’t coming so soon. Still, he knows what the future holds for him. He can go out a hero now, or he can slowly succumb to the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Heller’s plan is as smart as it is desperate. When he asks Jack for help, the trusted ally is apprehensive. Jack points out that it’s against policy to negotiate with terrorists. For years, Jack’s job was to protect both leaders and private citizens. Now, here’s a leader who is ready to die for the greater good. Heller explains both his illness and the situation in a resignation letter that will be effective in an hour. He will surrender as a private citizen. By sacrificing himself, Heller forces Margot into a corner. She has to come through with her end of the bargain. If she doesn’t, she proves herself to be a hypocritical mass murderer.
Despite the fact that she spent the bulk of the last episode trying to kill her daughter, Margot has a moral code. She still has no use for Simone, telling her son, Ian, that they must “assume the worst” that Simone is “still alive and may betray us.” When it comes to mass destruction, though, her attitude is a little different: she swears that if Heller surrenders, she will destroy the drones. She appears sincere about this. Ian, on the other hand, isn’t too keen on the plan. Margot tells him, “If a murderer like Heller can keep his word, then so can I.”
Simone is in bad shape when Kate gets her to doctors. In order to save her life, they have to put the young woman in a medically-induced coma. The problem with this is that she won’t be able to talk. By phone, Jack is insistent that Simone must wake up. “If she dies, so be it,” he says to Kate. As far as bad days goes, Simone’s is abysmal. She learned that she’s just a pawn in her mother’s game. Her husband, the only person who seemed to care about her, is dead, and that’s kind of her fault. She’s also responsible for the death of a sister-in-law that she wanted to save. On top of that, she was hit by a bus and is now in the custody of American agents who only care about what she knows.
Bauer is the only person who knows about President Heller’s plan, and he does not believe that Heller is making the right decision, but he’ll help. Jack tells the President that they need one more person in on the plot in order to sneak him to the meeting spot, Wembley Stadium. Heller picks his son-in-law, Mark Boudreau. Mark tells Jack that they “need to find a way to trust each other.” Jack says that the order from the President is good enough. It doesn’t matter that the two don’t get along; President Heller has brought them in on his final mission, and they must follow his wishes.
Jack is still trying to find a way to save the President’s life. He lets Kate in on the secret and insists that they wake up Simone. Kate forces the issues with the doctors, knowing that this move could kill their possible source. Even when woken, Simone is hesitant to talk. Simone does tell them the location of Naveed’s disc, which will have info that can help them. As Simone’s health slips once again, Kate gets the information to her team who set out to find the disc.
President Heller hasn’t told his daughter, Audrey, about the plan, but he is spending a few final moments with her. Jack and Mark are working together to get the President to Wembley, and Jack removes a chip from Heller’s arm so that no one can track him. Mark clues them in on the meeting schedule so they can make a quick escape. Everything works according to plan, but it doesn’t look like they will find Margot before the President surrenders. The CIA turns up at Margot’s old HQ and locates Naveed’s disc. Per Jack and Kate’s instructions, the files go to Chloe, who is working in a pub. Chloe encounters firewalls at every turn, and she tells Jack that this’ll be a hard one to crack.
Meanwhile, Kate’s main tech guy, Jordan Reed, is gone. Their boss, Steve Navarro, sent him out on a mission that was really a plot to kill the young agent who knew too much. Reed survived the attempt on his life. He calls the office and tells Navarro that someone is out to get him. He reveals his exact location. It’s a move that will make you wonder how someone in the CIA could do something so stupid. Reed, as it turns out, had set a trap. He disarms the assassin and says that he knows Navarro is out to kill him, he just wants to know why. The two fight. Reed is stabbed, but he manages to shoot and kill the assassin. Margot has moved her team into a hotel where they are ready to attack. Ian still wants to hang on to those drones. Margot is ready to give them up once she kills Heller. “Let the world see justice was done!”
Audrey enters her father’s office and finds the letter that he left. She knows his plan and she is not happy with her husband for helping President Heller. Audrey is grief-stricken, arguing, “I could have changed his mind.” He was very clear in his reasons for this decision. He knew that the time had come to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring this ordeal to an end.
Heller walks slowly towards the center of the field. From their computers, Margot and Ian zoom in and confirm that this really is the President of the United States submitting to their wishes. The look on Margot’s face matches the shock that likely came from the audience. This wasn’t a scheme. The President really was ready to die. They release the drone and blow up the President.
Where last week’s episode Live Another Day focused on action, this week’s was centered around the emotional core of the show. There are questions that drive every plot of 24. What can one person do to save the lives of many? How does a leader respond to a dire situation? Heller’s story comes to an end in this episode, but it’s been a compelling one. The specter of age and illness has been key to his storyline: he’s the leader of a powerful nation, but he’s also an older man faced with the reality that his mind is growing weaker. In the light of illness, Heller sees that actions under his leadership have had devastating consequences, not just for the United States, but for their allies. He can’t change what has been done. The surrender is his act of redemption, but not without consequence. We see this in the reactions of Margot and Ian after they strike Heller. Margot asked for Heller’s life, a request that many wouldn’t oblige. She got his life. Will this end her vengeance mission? Should the audience be more concerned with what her son will do?